As a parent, I was apprehensive my kids would abandon classic literature and I was apprehensive about violence. I was concerned every next word out of their mouths would require parental censoring. But, my kids express themselves beautifully and appropriately and my comic-reading kids read - everything - avidly. My daughter majored in classic literature in college; my son after consuming Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials (a Young Adult novel) read Dante's Inferno because he read that Pullman's story was based on Dante's work. As a parent and avid reader, I realize now that one format influences, supports, and enhances the other. As an educator and psychologist I am realizing that aside from enticing reluctant readers, graphic novels can and should be used at home and in the classroom - in terms of content, format, and skills they tap and reinforce. The catch - finding appropriate material (which is getting easier and easier).
Overview: Graphic novels have changed dramatically and are a force to be reckoned with. In a world of visual images (on billboards, phone apps, television - just about everywhere), graphic novels are becoming enticing educational tools that can help our kids learn, read, critically evaluate and communicate - on many levels.
www.schoollibraryjournal.com which is an excellent resource in finding just the right comics for your child.
History: As a kid I grew up with Archie and Veronica, Batman and Robin and a few others, and never fully embraced the world of comics. In all honesty there wasn't much to embrace. Born in the 1950's, I was and am a product of my time. Comic art and graphics was in its infancy. The comics I read told short stories of limited plot and character depth, and politics was rearing its ugly neck in censorship.
In 1954 Frederick Wertheim, in his "Seduction of the Innocent" argued that the then-popular comics such as Dick Tracy, Flash Gordon, Superman and the then newly devloping "Tales from the Crypt" and The Vault of Horror" directly impacted on youth and led to violent delinquency. Wertheimer's publication led to a subcommittee investigation which forced comic book producers to draw up a self-imposed "Comic Code Authority" restricting sex, violence, curse words and criticism of religion. Many distributors refused to sell comic books, many comic book companies disappeared, DC Comics became a shadow of its former self and Marvel Comics (then called Atlas Comics) was almost forced to fold.
Today: Comic books and graphic novels are an alternate format for story telling that come in many different genres. There are still many challenges to Graphic Novels today, but they've come a long way. Graphic novels are now typically printed in serial format. As a result there is tremendous character depth. The plots are intricate and the messages quite powerful as they incorporate visual and printed mediums in numerous genres:
- Are visually enticing;
- Usher the reluctant reader into a world of rich story-telling, character development and graphic images;
- Reinforce and strengthen sequencing skills (visual sequencing following the panels, cognitive sequencing following the story line and plot)
- Reinforce and sharpen cognitive skills - especially problem solving and making inferences (since much of the plot and story are either provided visually in the art and inferred between panels);
- Reinforce and sharpen attention skills as readers must integrate language and visual forms - attending not only to print but to the illustrations and graphic representations as well;
- Often offer rich, challenging vocabulary;
- Sharpen visual literacy in a world of bombarding visual images;
- Further enrich social skills and social cognition as their very nature evokes strong emotions as characters face diverse social issues.